Think about this… on your smartphone is there a bunch of features you basically never use. Whether that’s the camera or the headphone jack, wouldn’t it be cool to have the ability to create a custom phone with just the features you wanted? If the answer is yes then a simple DIY kit such as iSquare Mobility’s Kite could lets you assemble your own Android-based smartphone.
Build your own smartphone
Ok, so Kite is basically a cross over between Lego and Ikea for phones. The kit lets you build your own phone by selecting all the bits and pieces such as camera, battery, display and all the other usual features and then assemble them all in a 3D printed case.
Sure you will find hundreds of phones with better spec sheets that are much better looking than a Kite, but there is something nerdgasmic about building your own smartphone. Imagine whipping that bad boy out in a bar.
Here’s the kicker, you will need about €300 and some level of tech know-how to actually complete your own build. This is because when building your own phone you will need to connect up a bunch of electronics, you won’t need a soldering iron unless you want to add extras but still electronics can be fiddly. Another aspect that wouldn’t make the Kite phone accesible to all is this – you need to 3D print your own case. You can download the designs and work away but I think it says enough about the target market that the makers presume the people who will buy the kit will already own a 3D printer.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Adreno 306 GPU
|Display||5″ QHD (1280×720)|
|Network Connectivity||UMTS/HSPA+: 1, 2, 4, 5 6, 8
GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
CDMA EV-DO Rev. A: 0, 1, 10
FDD-LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 66
TDD-LTE: 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43
TD-SCDMA: 34, 39
|Other Connectivity||WiFi 802.11a/b/h/n/ac
|Ports||USB Type-C, Power Pins, Nano SIM|
Customise as you want
If you are a bit of a gadget head and reckon the challenge of building your own phone is something you would be up for then you’re in luck. Every aspect of the Kite phone is customisable. Want your phone to run off AA batteries? Fine, modify the case design to suit. Want better wireless performance? Hook up and external antenna and off you go. If you want to go completely mad you can even hook up a secondary display because why not. These are just the mods we can see from the demo videos – personally I would love the Goosed team to get hold of a couple of kits, just to see what we can come up with.
Thanks to the open hardware and software designs and support for off-the-shelf hardware components, you could theoretically alter just about any feature… assuming you’re willing to take the time to find compatible components and hack your phone to support them.
What’s the big push for a modular phone about?
So why do modular phones keep popping up? is it because they sound like something we should have? are they nifty little ideas for investors? or is it the fact that with electronic waste growing we need something different? Most likely it is a nice niche where the general consumer could save a fortune by not having to fork out for a new handset each year.
Basically the idea is that upgrading your phone can be like upgrading your home Pc. Rather than forking out hundreds on a new device, just buy exactly what you need to bring your phone up to date. A new battery, better camera or a new display, if you want it you can have it.
The modular phone sounds like something you or I or any other customer would want to have, right?. Well time and time again we have seen the humble idea fall flat on its face like a toddler trying to make it’s first steps.
We ourselves loved the concept of Google’s Project Ara and it is still the most high profile failure of them all. The Lego inspired phone started out with the idea that all components both internal and external could be swapped. Yet later this transitioned to focusing on external, attachable accessories. This was the beginning of the end as less the a year later the Google Pixel was released and the Ara was shutdown.
Others have tried to make the modular phone
This isn’t the first time I’ve got a little excited by a modular phone, it’s also not the only time I’ve been let down by a modular phone. Project Ara or Phoneblox, another modular phone start up that was picked up by Google offered so much promise for a long time. We had a lot of hope for the Google backed phone but unfortunately it got scrapped.
LG also had a crack with a semi modular phone, using a slot that could accept a single module add on at a time… again this was given the boot when the G6 was announced.
There was also the Essential PH-1 (another fail) while the most successful “modular” phone was the Motorola Moto Z but this only supported one of Motorola’s own mod accessories at a time. So the general train of thought is, many have tried, all have failed and while I think the Kite is a cool product they have nailed themselves into a small niche market. Without changes to the design that makes customisation and accessibility easier to all, Kite will fail too. That’s unfortunate because for the longest time I’ve wanted to see a successful modular phone just for the environmental benefits alone.
The Goosed Verdict
To be fair if you have the skillset, patience and a complete lack of style then Kite is a winner. The Kite smartphone is actually one of the most complete solutions I have seen to date and it’s a real cut above many of the other DIY kits. Having said that the problems are obvious. You will need a decent level of technical know-how to make a phone that while customisable, is downright ugly and far less powerful than most phones on the market.
Maybe I’m wrong, if Raspberry Pi is anything to go by there is a market for low-power, highly customisable hardware. Unfortunately the Kite might be just too niche right now.